A problem of equality? Understand Guatemala's decision regarding femicide

The Presidential Secretariat for Women affirmed that the decision is a step backwards in the understanding of this problem

A problem of equality? Understand Guatemala's decision regarding femicide

On June 27, 2018 the Constitutional Court (CC) of Guatemala issued a ruling in favor of reducing penalties in cases of femicide, arguing equal opportunities and responsibilities between men and women. This communication reopened the debate between those who think that there should be equality of conditions between the genders and those who advocate laws that empower women's rights.


The constitution of Guatemala establishes in article 4 freedom and equality in dignity and rights. Based on these premises, the citizens Manuel Alberto Chinchilla Solís and Ethel Katherine Girón Reyes instituted an unconstitutionality action against Article 6 of the Law Against Femicide and Other Forms of Violence Against Women, which prohibits the reduction of penalties to the aggressor.

Leer en español: ¿Un problema de igualdad? Entienda la decisión de Guatemala respecto al feminicidio

Thus, arguing that in cases of murder and parricide a penalty reduction is granted according to the circumstances of time, manner and place, the same right of equality and dignity should be applied to people who have committed acts of feminicide.

This approach has been proposed in different countries of Latin America, when creating a law or modifying the penal code, since it is considered that the rights of women are superimposed on those of men. However, these arguments are in contradiction with the initiatives of different organizations and international agreements that seek to create special legislation for women, due to the cases of violence directly linked to the social, political and economic inequality that exists towards women.

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Women in Latin America

According to the report "From the Commitment to Action: Policies to Eradicate Violence against Women in Latin America and the Caribbean", published by UN Women at the end of 2017, the region has the highest rates in the world in relation to gender violence, where crimes are committed for the simple fact of being a woman. Among the most recurrent acts are sexual violence, physical violence of the partner or ex-partner, rapes, and femicide.

This last act presents more cases per year in countries such as Honduras (466), El Salvador (349), Argentina (254) and Guatemala (211), according to the latest data published by the Observatory of Gender Equality of ECLAC. The most popular acts of crime that have managed to echo by their level of aggressiveness in the region are the feminicide carried out against Rosa Elvira Cely in Colombia, Ruth Thalía Sayas Sánchez in Peru, Lucía Pérez in Argentina, Elizabeth Uribe in Chile, and Cecilia Peres Vargas in Mexico, among others.

Laws in Latin America

Guatemala is one of the pioneer countries in the protection of women's rights in Latin America. Ten years ago, the Central American nation set a precedent in the classification of this crime against women and encouraged the debate at the regional level through the law against femicide and other forms of violence against women in 2008.

After 2008, reforms have been made in the penal code or created special laws in countries like Colombia in the same year; Chile and El Salvador in the year 2010; Argentina, Mexico and Nicaragua in 2012; Panama, Peru, Honduras and Bolivia in 2013, Ecuador being the last to carry out reforms in 2014, according to the report of the Observatory of ECLAC.

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This is the reason why organizations that defend women's rights set a precedent in the region by rejecting the decision taken by the Constitutional Court in Guatemala since, according to UN Women, "it makes the collateral victims more vulnerable, by raising the risk of revenge and retaliation of the condemned ".

In addition, this organization appeals to consider the decision of the Court (CC) according to international conventions and agreements that have been ratified by Latin American governments such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), the Convention of Belém do Pará (1994), and the conventions of the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action.

In this regard, the Presidential Secretariat for Women commented in a statement "The decision of the Court constitutes a step backwards in the understanding and sanction of gender-based violence that adds to the homicidal violence against women, as another element that violates the integrity and the lives of women and their family circle".


LatinAmerican Post | Henry Galindo
Translated from “¿Un problema de igualdad? Entienda la decisión de Guatemala respecto al feminicidio”

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